As I leave this criminal justice charity after more than 18 years, I think the sector has lost its collectivism, which is remarkably damaging. Social scapegoating, lack of social mobility and the conditionality of service provision has made our society less fair. In the face of such barren social policy, the sector should be speaking out about system change, opportunity and hope, but we do it less and less.
That said, I've met many inspiring individuals working in the sector. When you visit organisations or read funding applications you get a sense of the brilliant solutions to entrenched problems that are unique to the British voluntary sector and have enormous potential. Despite that, the sector has been ground down. The main political parties have had no clear strategy to respect and support our work. Governments see and manage the sector like another opposition party, sidelining it unless it offers an opportunity for grandstanding, which ultimately wastes the sector's financial and social resources. The sector's ability to speak truth to power and act as a reformer for social progress is lost.
For a while I think we will see more of the same, including the silence of a sector intimidated by government. Charitable organisations delivering large-scale contracts might bear the brunt of growing public disaffection as the government's relentless ideology to save money on vital services runs its course. It looks bleak for large delivery organisations as even the hope of social investment looks more and more like sporadic froth than any sort of game-changer.
It's a different context for smaller and community-based organisations. We might see a revival of their fortunes as devolution is implemented in full and the need for locally based solutions become more apparent.